The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Missionary Schools Blamed for Recent Student Suicides

MITA MUKHERJEE
Monday, April 18, 2005
The Telegraph

After the suicide, soul-search. Alarmed at the spurt of incidents indicating strained student-teacher relations — particularly after young Tiyasa Biswas committed suicide at St Joseph’s Convent in Chandernagore, alleging maltreatment by her teacher — members of the fraternity from reputed English-medium institutions in Calcutta have set up a committee to to find out why they feel compelled to resort to violence.

The committee will also find out ways, if any, to remedy the situation.

A preliminary study carried out by the Association of Teachers of Anglo-Indian Schools, an organisation of teachers of 69 ranking English-medium schools run by Christian missionaries, has revealed that with increasing workload and because of the lack of a congenial work atmosphere, teachers are failing to keep their anger under control.

Other than the suicide at Chandernagore, Our Lady Queen of the Missions, a Salt Lake school, was at the centre of a controversy barely three weeks ago, when a five-year-old girl suffered injuries, allegedly after a teacher pulled out a tuft of hair from her head.

A few months ago, a teacher of an Anglo-Indian school in the Bhowanipore area was pulled up by the authorities for slapping a student. A mathematics teacher of another school in Howrah was asked to explain to the authorities why he had beaten up at least a dozen students of a class on a single day as they had failed in a class test in mathematics.

“The number of complaints against teachers beating up students in Anglo-Indian schools is increasing. Why are teachers of schools that have the best educational standards behaving in this manner? We have set up a three-member committee that will get to the root causes,” said Ismail Nehal, a senior teacher of St James School and president of the new committee.

The association will hold a meeting of its executive committee on April 24 to discuss the issues which the committee will look into.

During the probe, the committee will hold discussions with people of all sections involved in the Anglo-Indian school education system, including guardians, students, school management, the state government and also the education boards to which the schools are affiliated.

The committee will submit the report to the schools, the government and the education boards, seeking implementation of their suggestions.

Apart from Nehal, the committee comprises Dilip Bhattacharya, a senior teacher of La Martiniere for Boys, and Laxman Sharma a teacher of St Thomas Day School.

According to the association, the pressure on teachers of Anglo-Indian schools has increased “tremendously”. “Even a few years ago, we had not more than 35 to 40 students in a class. Now, we have to tackle as many as 60 to 65 students in a single class,” Sharma pointed out.

“There is no point in punishing a teacher whenever he or she is found guilty of beating a student in class. If the schools are to retain the reputation they have earned after years of dedicated service, we need to get to the root cause,” Sharma signed off.

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